A new day dawned bright upon the northern plains. The
camp was a bustle of activity as the army went about its daily preparations.
Cassie had been up long before the sun discussing
things with Isirith. Late the previous night, he and his army of reptiles had
once again attacked Pravus's troops. They had caused a great deal of damage
because they had attacked during the night, further reducing the number of Pravus's
horde. They're was only a small handful of soldiers left to him, and the snakes
had found no sign of the Dynin.
"We think that they will be sssummoned sssoon.
The army isss amossst upon usss. I believe that he will bring them when he isss
ready to attack." Cassie listened to the snake captain and agreed with his
report. She knew next to nothing about the Dynin, but it sounded like they could
be summoned at any time. Why would Pravus travel with them if he didn't have
to? Isirith's idea made sense.
The news that the mortals in the enemy army were
down to very few was heartening news. The excitement level in the camp was almost
enough to launch another wild party, but after hearing the foe was close to
the camp, any celebration was postponed.
Pravus glared at the pitiful collection of fighters that stood before him.
There was less than four dozen of them and Pravus spat disgustedly.
"If I had been planning to rely on pathetic
mortals such as yourselves, I would have been defeated before the battle even
started." His black eyes flashed over the small group of motley soldiers. "I
have no more need for any of you, but since you survived, I will allow you to
fight for me. You feeble scum will not last long out there, but you might as
well take a few of the Storm's soldiers down with you."
The soldiers trembled before their horrible master.
"Be gone. I will inform you when we will march. I have to call up my real army
now." They bowed and exited as quickly as they were able.
Pravus grunted in annoyance. The storm had annihilated
the majority of his troops, and left him to rely on the Dynin. Not that they
were unreliable, but he didn't have control of as many Dynin as he did mortal
He settled back into a chair carved of dark wood
and began to chant. The words of ancient evil seemed to hang in the air long
after he had spoken them. He spoke in the same harsh guttural language that
he had used to bring the Marwolaeth.
The words in the air almost became tangible and
an odd humming seemed to reverberate through them. The ground began to shake
and tremble as the humming increased. Pravus's voice rose in pitch until it
was a high shriek that tore through the spell laden air.
He stopped and a silence filled the room where
the spell had been before. The silence was broken as a bony arm was thrust through
the earth into the thick air occupying Pravus's tent. The arm was followed by
a shoulder and then a head. It was the most hideous thing to have ever looked
upon the land of Agrestis.
It was the head of what once might have been
a Kougra, but now was the horrible phantasm from a nightmare. Tattered rotting
flesh hung from the stained cheek bones in strips. The sunken eye sockets were
empty, but not unseeing.
The other arm was pulled from the ground, and
then the rest of the ghastly creature was worked free. Earthen clumps clung
to the discolored bones and decaying flesh. It had once been painted Halloween
as was evident in the skeletal wings that protruded from between its bare shoulder
A barely audible whisper issued from the creatures
mouth, "You called my lord?"
The day had been well spent, and the army was feeling prepared. Cassie felt
slightly uneasy but was unwilling to let these feelings drag her down. She smiled
as she watched Anshi and Lana spar with wooden spoons.
Soon, unable to resist the temptation, she grabbed
a ladle and joined in. Soon they were joined by Morgan and some of the other
younger members of the army. The young Wocky Maputi was furiously brandishing
a spatula and fending off attacks made by a whisk wielding Aisha.
The battle soon escalated into a full fledged
war against Cassie, who had proved very good at fencing. Cries of "On guard"
and "touché" rose up from the tussle as one creature after another tried to
mach 'blades' with Cassie. She laughed wildly as she lunged and parried.
Soon a pile of kitchen utensils had accumulated
and defeated soldiers sat down to watch as Cassie took on their comrades. Maputi
tossed his spatula onto the growing pile and plopped down next to Anshi who
was doubling up with laughter as he watched Lana and Cassie go at it. Lana soon
joined them with a smile and a broken spoon.
The mound of bent and broken utensils had reached
its climax, and now there was a crowd of vanquished soldiers gathered around
watching Cassie take on her final opponent. Morgan and Cassie were darting about,
quickly jabbing and thrusting at each other. The fight was showing no sign of
stopping, and soon bets were being made.
Cassie's eye shone with the exhilaration of the
fight. She inhaled deeply to make up for the lack of oxygen that the fight was
causing, and laughed wildly. Her face felt flushed and warm, but she was enjoying
every minute of it.
Morgan was panting as he leapt to one side in
order to avoid a swift lunge. He knew that he didn't have much longer to fight.
Cassie's boundless energy and sped was too much for him. Still he fought on
caught up in the thrill of sparring with some one who was so ebullient.
The cheering crowed was rewarded with a victor
when Morgan became distracted and stumbled. Cassie gave a cry of triumph and
pointed her 'sword' at his chest.
"You are defeated you scurvy dog!" she crowed
jubilantly. There was a chorus of cheers and moans as bets were won and lost.
After the nights excitement, very few were ready for sleep. It was long after
midnight before all had gone to bed.
The next morning was the negation of its predecessor.
Dark storm clouds lay thick in the sky, and the wind whipped through the camp
tearing at fur and clothes. Anything that was not weighted or secure was blown
When Cassie stepped out of her tent and saw the
sky, she knew the time had come. The battle for Agrestis would commence today.
The fate of all would be decided.
She told this to Dewrder, and he told her he
would prepare the troops.
"You are seldom wrong about these things miss.
I will call the men to arms."
In about an hour's time, the army was ready.
They were standing in their ranks on the wind swept field awaiting the evil
that would soon come flooding over the land and threaten to drown them. None
of them knew, or could have imagined what to expect.
At the head of the army stood the small, silver
Zafara with the Magtile curled around her throat. She faced the fury of the
storm and waited for her foe. She could taste her vile presence on the wind,
and could feel him creeping closer to her and her troops.
Images from her most recent dream flashed through
her brain, and Cassie wished that it didn't have to come to this. She wished
that Pravus had never come to Agrestis, and she wished that the weight of all
this didn't have to lie so completely on her solders.
Shouts brought her out of her thoughts and back
to the cold harsh reality. Pravus's army was now in sight and advancing with
chilling precision. As they got nearer, it became clear that they were not flesh
Cassie's troops fell silent as they stared at
the ranks of decaying corpses. Rotting Kougras, Grarrls, Pterii, and other moldering
cadavers pressed forward across the grasslands.
Morgan shuddered as he saw a skeletal Zafara
draped in strips of dead flesh. The Dynin were a gruesome and terrifying sight
Pravus, unlike Cassie, stood in the center of
his army. He was shielded on all sides by rows of his fearsome minions. He laughed
at the shocked expressions on the faces of Cassie's army.
"I told you I would come prepared Caesius. Your
day of reckoning has come. We will wipe the land clean of those who oppose us.
You and your pathetic army are going to be the first to go." Pravus's eyes gleamed
as he looked at the Zafara before him. She stared right back at him with those
odd, disconcerting eyes.
Pravus found himself unable to meet her gaze.
He lowered his eyes cursing her with every ounce of hatred he possessed. It
mattered not though. Those eyes would never stare at him again after this battle.
He would make sure of that himself.
"I see you are hiding behind your troops. Come
out and face me." Cassie stared defiantly at the black Uni in the midst of his
dead army. He was obviously angry, but this didn't faze her at all for the time
being. He wouldn't be any less ruthless when in a good mood.
"You seem to have no idea what you are dealing
with Caesius," Pravus growled in the direction of the silver Zafara.
"I disagree. I know perfectly well what I am
doing. I am standing up to the cowardly filth that has been terrorizing Agrestis
for four months. I think it is you that have no idea what you have gotten yourself
into," Cassie retorted brashly.
"Let's see how brave you are with out your army
to back you up," Pravus snarled. He reared up on his back legs and spoke several
chilling syllables. There was an earsplitting crack as air rushed in to fill
the spaces that had been previously occupied by Cassie and Pravus.
The two armies looked at each other in shocked
silence for a short moment. There captains were gone. Suddenly, the Dynin straightened,
and as one looked at their adversaries. They were bond to Pravus and being led
by him despite his absence.
Morgan caught on to this quickly and gave the
Cassie gasped as she landed hard on the ground. She was still in the northern
plains, but instead of being at the head of her army where she belonged, she
was now on top of a hill that overlooked the two armies. She scrambled to her
feet and looked out over the field. Scenes from her dream flooded back into
her head, and it was all she could do to keep from crying out.
A harsh laugh from behind her caused her to whirl
around. Pravus stood before her in all his warlord splendor, cape whipping around
him in the stormy wind.
He laughed again and said, "Bet you didn't see
that coming. Do you still feel valiant now that you don't have seven hundred
soldiers to back you up?" His dark laughter rose up and was lost in a roll of
thunder that tore trough the sky.
Cassie straightened a looked him in the eyes.
The surprise at being instantaneously transported to the top of a hill several
hundred feet away had not dimmed her fortitude in the least. She too laughed
as Pravus was forced to look away for her penetrating stare.
"Not used to having your victims stand up to
you, are you Pravus?" she scoffed. "You are accustomed to being greeted with
cries of anguish and fear. You are used to being feared and revered. Well, welcome
to the real world. Its time you met someone who won't shy away from your gaze,
someone who is willing to fight, and defeat you." Her words made Pravus grind
"We shall see."
Morgan was cringed as the clang of steel meeting steel rang through into the
cloudy sky. He was forced to lift his sword as a putrid Scorchio swung at him
with a cruelly curved scimitar. Its foul rotting breath washed over him in a
nauseating wave. The creature's wings were draped with strips of skin that put
Morgan in mind of macabre streamers used for decorating.
He slashed at the fetid beast, but was dismayed
to find that his violent hacking was doing no it no harm. Pieces of its rotting
flesh flew away from his blade, but the Scorchio seemed not to feel it. His
continued assault finally managed to sever on of the Scorchio's bony arms, but
this did nothing to deter its progress.
Others were having similar difficulties. Limbless
monsters were still attacking with the same fervor that they had had when whole.
Detached limbs were attacking in any way they could.
While the Dynin could not be killed, Cassie's
army was entirely mortal. They felt pain and were affected by the biting steel
of blades and spears. Within a short amount of time, once living bodies lay
among the scattered bits of discolored bone. The green fields were soon stained
Anshi and Lana were fighting side by side against
the vile beings. They kept close to each other and watched out for swinging
blades or thrusting spears. They were making a considerable dent in the undead
army by dismembering the soldiers and making it harder for them to cause damage.
This seemed to work fairly well.
Lana looked around in horror as she fought beside
Anshi. She had been raised in the quiet village of Quievi and she had never
seen anything as horribly gruesome and dark as this battle. She was appalled
at the enemies she was fending off, and the only thing that was keeping her
sane was the strong form beside her who kept telling her that they were going
to clear the land of these monstrosities once and for all.
Anshi was having almost as hard of a time dealing
with the bloodshed as Lana. The cries of fallen comrades rang in his ears. These
were the cries o those whom he had fenced with the night before. Many of them
had come from the very village where he had been born. Why did this have to
As he talked to Lana about getting rid of the
Dynin, he clung to his own words and desperately hoped that he would see them
Cassie and Pravus fought fiercely with all the talents either one of them possessed.
Cassie had a thin light blade that she was using, and Pravus had his axe. The
Axe was deadly, but could not be used with speed. Cassie's agility helped her
avoid the powerful axe strokes, but her sword was nowhere near as powerful a
weapon. Even so, she managed to inflict some wounds on her adversary.
Pravus seeing that he would be unable to kill
the nimble little Zafara decided to try another tactic. He threw aside his sword
and sent a surge of power at Cassie. She shuddered and her weapon flew from
her grasp and landed sizzling in the grass. She gasped and straightened. The
jolt had winded her slightly and she was unprepared for the next attack.
The bolt struck her in the stomach and she doubled
over gasping. Pravus laughed and prepared to send another surge. This was more
like what he had had in mind.
Dewrder was fighting hard against the impossible foes. They were far worse
than he had ever imagined they would be. He was beginning to feel his age as
creature after creature advanced on him.
He had received numerous wounds already, and
could feel himself beginning to tire. Refusing to give into fatigue, he battled
on against the never ebbing tide of evil. It would be a long day.
Maputi felt overwhelmed by the sea of blood and
rotting creatures. The white Wocky had never been in a real battle before, and
was shocked by it. Never before had he witnessed such destruction and decay.
He screamed as a disembodied hand grabbed his
ankle. His fought to get it off, but found it had him firmly in its clutches.
He finally managed to wrench it off his leg, but lost a good deal of skin and
fur due to its sharp claw like fingers.
He almost laughed as he tossed it away into the
bushes. What would his friends at home think of him now? Brave little Maputi
screaming like a little perawan.
He had always been the brave one. The one willing
to try the things that no one else would dare. He climbed the highest trees
and explored the deepest parts of the swamp.
He had feared nothing and found ways to show
it every chance his got. It had been no surprise to anyone when he had signed
up to help with the army. It was just another crazy way to prove himself. But
now he wanted nothing more than to curl up in a corner and hid from this torrent
Who could blame him, though? His friends would
probably feel the same if they were here. This thought was little consolation
though as he watched the rush of darkness flow around him. He fought on, hoping
with all his heart that he would live through this to see his safe homeland
Morgan, like Dewrder, was feeling the early signs
of exhaustion creep up on him. His tired limbs refused to respond as quickly
as he wanted them to. He parried blows more sluggishly than he had done earlier.
This lack of energy worried him. He needed to be alert and quick with enemies
As he was thinking this, a mace appeared as if
out of nowhere and caught him in the chest. He flew backwards and landed with
a sickening thud on the hard earth. He lay stunned looking into the overcast
A dark shape obscured his vision and he felt
a thrill of terror shoot up his spine. The grotesque figure that stood over
him was what once might have been a mighty Lupe, but now was the horrific specter
of its former self. The empty eye sockets gleamed with the bloodlust of battle.
The grizzly figure seemed to chuckle, and then raised a massive battle axe.
Morgan could do nothing but watch in terror.
Cassie wished she could curl up on the grass
and lie there until the pain stopped. She knew this would not be wise though
so she fought to remain upright and conscious. The only thing that penetrated
he pain clouded brain was the maniacal laughter of her evil adversary.
She realized the fight was lost for her, but
was unwilling to accept defeat. Then, with a sudden clarity she knew what had
to be done. She though back to the time when she had encountered Pravus in Emrallis,
and began to concentrate.
She concentrated all her energy on the laughter
that floated through her mind. She focused her entire being on destroying it
and let go. She felt the force hit Pravus full on, and continued forcing everything
she could at him. The beating of her heat and the air coming in and out of her
lungs fueled it, and even as she poured her life into it, she sensed it was
Pravus was in a state of shock. Every nerve in
his body burned with intense pain. It felt as though every inch of his body
were bursting with extreme burning light. He screamed, and howled in agony and
then blew apart in an explosion of brilliant light.
Morgan saw the axe move towards his chest as
if it were in slow motion. He tensed waiting for the searing pain that would
accompany the keen blade, but it never came. In a flash of white light, the
Dynin fell to the ground as a crumbled heap of bones and the axe thudded into
the earth next to his head.
He sighed and sat up shakily. The hill top to
his right was shining with a brilliant light and he knew that Cassie had succeeded.
He stood unsteadily up and shouted joyfully up to the cloudy sky.
Despite his instability, Morgan began to run
towards the hill. She had done it! She had beaten Pravus and freed Agrestis
from his evil clutches. He struggled up the hill feeling gleeful. It was wonderful
to feel free of dread fear for the first time in days.
"Cassie! Cassie! You did it! You did it!" he
panted as he scrambled up the last part of the hill. His words caught in his
throat though as he reached the top. The clouds had opened and began poring
down torrents of rain on the dry earth, but that was not the cause for his standstill.
There, lying in the fresh mud, was a sodden silver form, Unresponsive and unmoving.
To be continued…